Top 10 Classic Rock Songs for Children

 by Sammi Graham, MT-BC

If you work primarily with children as a music therapist, you know how redundant children’s music can get. Classic children’s tunes are great because they work, but have you considered adapting songs from other genres? 

Keep reading through the end of this post for a free download of the chord charts for each of these songs!

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10. Yellow Submarine by the Beatles

Adults and children alike enjoy this playful song about life under the sea. This song can be used to work on cognitive and communication skills through story sequencing and reading comprehension.

Also available as a children’s book on Amazon.

9. Lookin Out My Back Door by Creedence Clearwater Revival

John Fogerty of CCR wrote this funny and whimsical song for his then three-year-old son. The lyrics (which reference elephants, giraffes, giants, and magicians) are engaging for children as they evoke images of a circus. This is another song that can be used to work on cognitive and communication skills through story sequencing and reading comprehension.

Fun fact: The reference to a parade in this song was inspired by the Dr. Seuss book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street!

8. Do You Wanna Dance? made popular by The Beach Boys and The Ramones

Originally written by Bobby Freeman, this is a fun and upbeat song that makes people want to get up and move! The repetitive nature of this song makes it easily adaptable for dance/movement-based activities that address cognitive or motor skills. With a run time of approximately 2 minutes, this song can be used as a break in between interventions to allow your kiddos some time to just release some energy!

7. Stray Cat Strut by Stray Cats

If you’re in need of a song with the element of silliness, this is the one for you. This song can be used to address cognitive and communication skills like story sequencing, but its lyric content is particularly good for addressing reading comprehension. When you’re done talking about this song’s ridiculous lyrics, you can have some fun letting the kids show off their “stray cat strut”.

6. Shakin Shakin Shakes by Los Lobos

This song is excellent for addressing motor skills through instrument play or movement. The lyrics in the verses can be used as movement/instrument play directives to encourage reaching progressively higher or lower, and the refrain can be used as a break for them to shake their limbs after all that strenuous movement. This song’s lyrics can also be used to address academic skills like learning adjectives and geographical terms.

5. Angel Dance made popular by Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin

Originally a Los Lobos tune, Robert Plant recorded this version of what he called “a nursery rhyme” in 2010. This song, sung a cappella or acoustically and at a slower tempo, would make a beautiful lullaby: “Goodnight, sleep tight, big bright sun has gone away… …Goodbye, don’t cry, tomorrow bring us a brand new day”. Conversely, the lyrics in this song contain specific movement directives like, “fly”, “run”, and “jump”. 

You can use this song to encourage relaxation OR movement – how cool is that?

4. Hello Goodbye by the Beatles

This song is ideal for addressing cognitive and academic skills like opposites and rhyming! The repetitive nature of this song allows for communication skills to be addressed through echoing specific vowel sounds or even 2-syllable words. In addition, the concepts of opposites and rhyming could be explored even further with a simple song rewrite. 

3. You’re My Best Friend by Queen

The sweet and heartfelt lyrics in this song are simple and concrete enough for a lyric analysis with children. You can use this song to discuss what a healthy and supportive friendship looks like (ex: “rain or shine, you stood by me”, “I got you to help me forgive”, “you’re the first one when things turn out bad”).

Do you want to have a Valentine’s themed session without focusing on romantic love? Help your kiddo rewrite this song as a gift for a friend or family member!

2. Lullaby (Goodnight, My Angel) by Billy Joel

This touching song from River of Dreams was inspired by Joel’s young daughter at the time. While “Goodnight, My Angel” is obviously a lullaby, there is a meaningful underlying message of trust that drives the song. The eloquent lyrics paired with the song’s gorgeous instrumentation make it an exceptional choice for encouraging bonding and instilling a sense of security in children who have experienced trauma. 

In reference to the 2004 picture book based on his song, Joel said: “Reassuring children that they are not alone or could be abandoned is very important for their well-being,” – well said, Billy.

1.  Octopus’s Garden by the Beatles

While I have mostly used this song and its corresponding picture book to encourage engagement and vocalizations through fill-in-the-blank singing, there are certainly more potential uses for it. 

The illustration in the book follows the journey of a boy and his pet goldfish. The goldfish is rather small but appears in every page of the book, which allows for a fun “Where’s Waldo” or “I Spy” type of game. Using this song and book to “find the fish” could be a great way to provide procedural support or to simply address on-task behavior and focus.


I hope you find this list to be helpful in your practice! Refreshing your go-to songs is a small way to save yourself from experiencing burn-out, and your kids will likely appreciate the novelty as well. 

 Comment below if you know of any songs that should be added to this list! …and check out my previous blog post, Top 10 Indie and Alternative Pop/Rock Songs for Children, if you haven’t already. 🙂

Sammi Graham,MT-BC

Music Therapist – Board Certified

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